Warning! SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels series finale ahead!
The Rebellion's victory at the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One is widely considered to be their first major victory over the Empire; it's even referred to as such in A New Hope's opening crawl. But this week's Star Wars Rebels series finale may have introduced a contradiction when it featured the rebels of Lothal also winning a huge victory over the Empire.
In the Rebels finale, the Ghost Crew and their allies blow up the Imperial Complex on Lothal, eliminating practically all of the Empire's forces on the planet. Afterwards, the few remaining Imperials in the city are swiftly dealt with and Lothal is liberated from the Empire's control. And though there was a fear the Empire would return and punish the planet as retribution, the finale's epilogue makes it clear that never happened. From this point on, Lothal is a free planet.
This has got some fans a little confused. The opening crawl of Episode IV states: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire." This line was written well before Star Wars exploded into the giant franchise it is today, but the crawl still makes it clear which battle it's referring to, continuing with: "During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star." Thanks to Rogue One, fans now know exactly how the Rebellion secured those plans and won that first victory, but the liberation of Lothal in the Rebels series finale is set before the Battle of Scarif (despite the Ghost and Chopper appearing in Rogue One). This creates something of a discrepancy, then, over which is really the "first" victory.
Part of this is narrative convention. To be fair to Star Wars Rebels, it's hard to imagine the series wanting to end with its heroes suffering a major defeat. As it stands now, the Ghost Crew already suffered huge losses with the death of Kanan Jarrus and the disappearance of Ezra Bridger. To have them then follow those sacrifices by failing in their mission to drive the Empire off of Lothal would have been far too bleak of an ending. That being said, a win here - and especially a win as substantial as liberating an entire planet - does appear to fly in the face of what is stated in Star Wars' opening crawl.
Perhaps that's why the Rebels finale goes out of its way to draw a distinction between the rebels of Lothal and the true Rebel Alliance. Though the Lothal resistance is considered to be a part of the Alliance - an organization of several rebels cells that was officially formed into the Alliance to Restore the Republic when Mon Mothma broadcast her declaration from aboard the Ghost - the mission orchestrated by the rebels of Lothal was not an officially sanctioned Rebel mission, and no other Rebel Alliance members took part. This is in contrast to an earlier mission in which Hera had the explicit support of Yavin IV, where here she did not.
Still, the distinction being made is little more than a technicality and had they wished to, the Rebel Alliance could have easily taken credit for the liberation of Lothal even though they didn't order it or take part. In fact, it's a little unbelievable they wouldn't have seeing as such an achievement is sure to have emboldened more planets to take up arms against the Empire. But that isn't what happens, and it's not until the Battle of Scarif when the Rebel Alliance make their first, true and undisputed stand against the Empire. Just don't forget that technically the rebels of Lothal beat the Empire first.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019